Nets-Trail Blazers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 04, 2012
In a difficult season for the Portland Trail Blazers, their last loss was particularly disheartening. Trying to stay in playoff contention, the Trail Blazers look to bounce back Wednesday night when they host the New Jersey Nets. Portland hasn't won back-to-back games since late January, having alternated decisions in its last nine contests to put the club in a tough position heading into the final weeks of the season. Needing to put together a string of victories soon, the Blazers (25-29) would have preferred to start Monday against Utah. They led 97-94 with two minutes to go, but a pair of Portland turnovers helped the Jazz finish on an 8-0 run and win 102-97. The loss was especially frustrating for the Blazers considering Utah is one of the teams they're chasing. Portland is in 11th place in the Western Conference - four games behind eighth-place Houston. "We're staying in the moment and taking it game by game," interim coach Kaleb Canales said. "This one will hurt until 12:01 tonight and then we have to turn the page and look forward." Raymond Felton continues to shoulder much of the fans' criticisms during a disappointing season. In his first campaign with Portland, the point guard is averaging a career-low 10.7 points on 39.0 percent shooting. In the last three games, which included two losses to West playoff contenders, he's averaged 7.7 points while shooting 30.0 percent and totaling 10 turnovers - playing a role in both late giveaways against the Jazz. "I could care less about anybody else being upset with me, I'm mad at myself about the play, about what happened," Felton said. "There's nothing I can do about it but put it behind me." Joel Przybilla returned to the lineup after missing the previous game, but he was held scoreless in 22 minutes and Portland struggled inside defensively, giving up a season-high 56 points in the paint. Jamal Crawford sat out with tendinitis in his right knee. It's not certain if he'll return Wednesday. Looking for a win to get back on track, Portland may not be facing New Jersey (19-36) at a good time. The Nets have won four of six and are playing well on a four-game West Coast trip. They had a three-game winning streak snapped by a 91-87 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. New Jersey rallied from a 17-point deficit to tie the game, but never led as Kobe Bryant hit a pair of late jumpers, including the game-clinching 3-pointer with 6.8 seconds left. Deron Williams scored 20 points and Kris Humphries added 18 with 15 rebounds. The Nets were outrebounded 50-38, but forced 16 turnovers. "We needed a better start, but we put ourselves in a position to win," Humphries said. "That was a hell of a play they drew up at the end." Gerald Wallace, who was traded to the Nets by the Blazers last month, continues to provide a lift for New Jersey. He's averaging 20.3 points and 9.0 rebounds the last three games. He scored 14.2 points per contest while spending 65 games with Portland over the last two seasons. The Nets have lost three straight and seven of eight in Portland.
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